On Racism

Loyld Marcus in his wonderful piece The Myth Of Racist America in American Thinker here the other day here wrote:

Black seniors are prone to experiencing “racism paranoia.”  I am in my late sixties.  (Did I just say that out loud?)  I remember suffering racism in my youth.  Consequently, there have been situations in which I found myself anticipating racism only to be greeted with warmth and hospitality.  I know blacks my age and older who are suffering racism paranoia – imagining racism in every situation.

A point about human nature parodied in the Seinfeld episode when Uncle Leo attributes a overcooked hamburger (and much else in his life) to anti-Semitism.  And in almost exactly the same fashion, when my son’s Japanese in-laws invited us to dinner in an upscale restaurant and the service was horrible my son’s father in-in-law turned to me and said “you have to expect that when you’re Japanese.”

I held up a finger as if to say “watch this”, turned in my seat and signaled the waiter only to have him turn his back on me. “See” I said “it’s not just you Japanese he’s nasty to it’s everybody he serves” and we all  laughed.  A story I told to a Jewish couple we know and they laughed themselves, “when that happens we always think it’s because we’re Jews.”

People are S.O.B.s for every reason besides bigotry as well as bigotry.

But it’s rarely bigotry. That’s not the way we roll.  Most Americans just aren’t that way and haven’t been.

The first time I heard the term Spic it had to be explained to me. I learned the word Nigger from Huckleberry Finn, I never heard either word used by my parents or their friends and Bay Ridge Brooklyn was strictly White and a pretty social place in the nineteen fifties. In fact every adult that I knew growing up called Italians Italians and Poles Poles. Jews were Jews and I was much older and moving around outside of the neighborhood before I ever heard the word Kike, Guinea or Polack.  My father was Irish and I had blue eyes, red hair and freckles, lots of freckles but my friend Wally Bogan had to explain to me, like it was a big secret, why us two might be called “Micks.”  Micks?  How interesting but then I forgot about it.

It’s not that people of that generation didn’t have dislikes. My grandmother whom I loved dearly, was Swedish, who were the best people in the world of course, and she was often vocal in her sense of superiority to and dislike of Italians. Indeed it wasn’t until her sister’s granddaughter married one that she discovered all manner of previously unsuspected virtues in the Roman race.  And would hotly deny ever thinking any different.

And of course this time was before the Civil Rights movement. “We reserve the right to refuse…” was the custom and law beginning about a hundred miles south of New York City and extended over a nation inside a nation Grant once described as “an empire in extent.”  In many ways a brutal too one because Blacks were denied the right to vote inside that empire and up until 1964 or thereabouts as many as forty to sixty lynched each year there with many more judicially murdered.

But as it turned out what Whites were really afraid of wasn’t Blacks but the attitude of other Whites if they violated the color bar, that is acted kindly. I remember the story of the man who owned a hotel and brought bottles of ice cold cokes out to a group of Blacks who had integrated his pool by jumping into it fully clothed.  Startling because the day before he had poured acid into the water on a similar group.

When tasked with the contradiction he explained that the Civil Rights Act has passed so no one could blame him that “it was the law of the land.” But it wasn’t the law of the land because even thought it had won a majority in Congress the day before,  President Johnson was yet to sign it.

He just needed the excuse.

Like sometimes, we all do I guess.